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Event 4: Three Day Course on Ethics and Research with 'Vulnerable' Groups

Whilst a central tenet of all ethical debate as it relates to social research is to explore issues of responsibility, accountability and trust within the research process, it is widely accepted that there are certain social groups which are seen as more vulnerable than others. Convened by one of the training team and led by an invited speaker from outside the University, this training event will offer a series of sessions that explore questions of vulnerability within research with particular reference to particular minority and marginalised groups. The event will ensure that representatives from so-called ‘vulnerable’ groups are fully involved with the design and delivery of individual sessions. The training course will be offered twice throughout the course of the Initiative. The first event will run in September 2007 and will offer an introduction to the key ethical issues in undertaking work with vulnerable people/groups. The second course will run in March 2009 and will offer more advanced training that looks at the issues in greater depth. In particular it will concentrate on issues that might cause tension between researchers and researched when working with vulnerable people.

Day 1 - What do we mean by vulnerable groups - setting the scene.

he first day of this training event will comprise an introductory workshop that will examine what we mean by vulnerability. Categorisations of vulnerability are fluid and contested as there are many reasons why research participants may be disadvantaged. Vulnerability may result from factors such as physical or mental infirmity, language difficulties or membership of a minority group through for example, ethic origin or sexuality. This introductory session will explore insights which have come from researchers from specialist fields within social research including those who carry out research with children, those with learning difficulties, older people and the dying.

From Risk Avoidance to an Ethics of Care A second theme within this session will explore how feminist (and other) re-formulations of ‘ethics’ may be used within social research. It will draw upon feminist debate around an ‘ethics of care’ and will consider both its philosophical foundations and its applicability to social research.

Days 2 and 3

The two remaining days will be split into a series of half-day workshops that will explore questions of vulnerability within research and contested ideas about ‘vulnerable groups’ by examining the extent to which vulnerable groups and individuals may be afforded (or claim) agency within the research process. Sessions will also examine how researchers address issues of informed consent, anonymity and confidentiality with vulnerable groups. A range of session options will be offered, each co-facilitated by an individual who is a member of a ‘vulnerable’ group in collaboration with either by a member of the training team or by an active researcher from Lancaster University, who is an expert in the field. Those attending the event will select two out of four workshop choices per day prior to the event. Each workshop will run subject to a minimum number of six and a maximum of thirty participants.

Day 2

  • Unpacking Vulnerability in Research I - Research with Disabled People
  • Unpacking Vulnerability in Research II - Research with Ethnic Minorities
  • Unpacking Vulnerability in Research III - Research with Older People
  • Unpacking Vulnerability in Research IV - Research with Gay and Lesbian Groups

Day 3

  • Unpacking Vulnerability in Research V - Research with Religious Minorities
  • Unpacking Vulnerability in Research VI - Research with the terminally ill
  • Unpacking Vulnerability in Research VII - Research with Learning Disabled People
  • Unpacking Vulnerability in Research VII - Research with Children
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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Institute for Advanced Studies
County South
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD